Sams report lays out the extraordinary democratic struggle engulfing our country, and challenges us as Communists to make our contribution to the forward motion of our class and people.
The unprecedented voter turnout in the Democratic primaries reflects excitement at the possibility of the first African American or the first women President. Even more, participation in the primaries is being driven by the desire to pull the country out of Iraq, out of the economic crisis, out of the health care crisis, out of concern for immigrant rights, and out of the nightmare conditions in the country after three decades of ultra-right corporate power.
Millions of voters are making the connections between spending on the war and their own economic well-being. This election presents an historic opportunity to breakthrough and change the political landscape.
The grand coalition of the AFL-CIO and Change to Win along with National Council of La Raza, Womens Vote, ACORN, MoveOn and Rock the Vote has launched the biggest ever independent voter mobilization, which is at the heart of winning a massive turnout on election day and after.
The purpose of this report is to discuss how we contribute to the remarkable movement growing in our country, how we can help build the unity needed to defeat the ultra-right with a landslide vote, and how we can build the movement and the Communist Party and YCL to achieve bold and sweeping gains in the post-election period.
Mobilizing a landslide win against the ultra right, necessary to turn the country around, is at the center of our tactics.
The severe damage from three decades of policy rooted in super exploitation and world domination will not be easy to reverse. A token recovery package will not lift working people out of the economic crisis that is crashing down around us. A massive voter turnout in November is needed to provide a strong enough mandate for a completely new set of policies..
A landslide vote that changes control of the White House and improves the balance of forces in the House and Senate and in the states will create a new political dynamic in our country and the possibility to win gains far beyond the current platform of either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton.
We do not yet know who will emerge, but with each new phase of the campaign Obama is proving to have the greatest potential to bring out a landslide vote to defeat John McCain, and the greater openness to working with mass movements. His recognition of the role of the people in moving history forward, and his message of inclusion not division inspires youth and all generations to get involved It reflects his own life experience.
In response to right-wing media attacks and the Clintons dangerous and opportunist negative campaigning, Obamas profound speech tackling race and racism in America opens a new door to uproot the legacy of slavery and the devastation of the era of ultra-right domination. He makes a deep contribution to unity in the way he addresses white people and shows that racism holds everyone back and the progress made in overcoming racism benefits everyone. Bill Richardsons response, embracing Obamas vision and addressing racism against immigrants and Latinos further uplifts the level of unity.
But whether the nominee is Obama or Clinton the landslide vote must be fought for as a necessary first step to winning a different direction for our country. Neither candidate is of the left. But history teaches us that when mobilized, labor and peoples forces can push through and win progressive gains in a climate like today. Franklin Delano Roosevelt did not run on a New Deal program, but was propelled to create it by the unity in action of millions of unemployed and their allies. A landslide vote gives leverage to organize with the new President and Congress.
Peace and labor candidates for the House and Senate will benefit from a landslide vote. With enough progressives in Congress it will be possible to outweigh the Republican-Conservative Democratic alliance that has stalled progress. This alliance made it impossible to override presidential vetoes including a timetable to exit Iraq, expansion of SCHIP, and is now pushing the anti-immigrant, anti-labor SAVE Act HR 4088 which must be defeated.
It will take registering and mobilizing millions of new voters plus the votes of independents and some Republicans on top of a huge Democratic turnout to add up to the landslide that can break the chains of ultra-right corporate dominance.
At the center of our election policy is keeping the fire on the ultra-right, John McCain and the Republicans in order to defeat them overwhelmingly.
The latest polls show that in a generic match-up, Democrats have a 13 point lead in the Presidential election. But in a specific McCain – Obama or McCain – Clinton match-up it is neck-in-neck, with a slight Democrat advantage. Once the Democratic nominee is known, and the campaign zeroes in on challenging McCain, these figures can be expected to improve.
John McCain is a representative of the military industrial complex and a favorite of Wall St. He intends to carry on the Bush agenda, and worse. His folksy image is a cover. The true John McCain must be made known. The stark contrast of McCain with either Obama or Clinton on a few top issues makes the case for an all-out campaign to defeat the ultra-right in this election.
McCain says he is for working people. But McCain, like Bush, opposes the Employee Free Choice Act which makes it easier to form a union.. At the AFL-CIO debate attended by 17,000 in Soldiers Field last year a commitment was secured from every Democratic candidate to sign the Employee Free Choice Act if elected President. Removing the barriers to join a union will vastly increase the size of the labor movement and its ability to mobilize for better conditions on the job and in the electoral arena. An enlarged labor movement is key to winning greater democratic victories post-election.
McCain supports Bushs proposed permanent tax cuts for the super rich. The Democratic candidates oppose these obscene tax cuts, which is a good starting point We say that the taxes on the rich should be rolled back at least to 1970’s levels to restore the ability of the government to meet social needs. This fight can be won with a new President, a stronger Congress and a new political climate..
McCain supports Bushs pre-emptive war policy. He plans to stay in Iraq and expand the war to Iran and beyond.. Strong anti-war sentiment pushed the Democratic candidates to commit to end the war, although not as comprehensively or rapidly as can be. Obama has a stronger position, but both Clinton and Obama are for bringing the troops home. We disagree with their willingness to utilize troops in Afghanistan. But the first step to a new policy in the Middle East is to bring the troops home and provide for their needs when they return.. The biggest step to resolving the economic crisis is stop spending $500 million a day for the war and occupation. A landslide Democratic vote in November is the best way to begin troop withdrawal. In a new climate, a new foreign and military policy based on diplomacy and nuclear non-proliferation can be fought for more effectively.
McCain, like Bush has no solution to the health care crisis. His plan would not cover any additional people, would not cut costs and relies entirely on big insurance companies. The healthcare plans of both Clinton and Obama are limited, with a combination of public and private coverage. But both look to covering everyone. We support a universal not-for-profit single payer system. HR 676, introduced by Rep. John Conyers. It is based on expanding and improving Medicare and has the endorsement of 389 labor organizations. Conyers, speaking at the Take Back America conference, stressed that number one to winning his bill is getting the presidency out of Republican control, which will give leverage to the growing movement for single-payer .
If John McCain is to be defeated overwhelmingly, his positions and voting records and his ties to the policies of George W. Bush and the ultra-right on these issues and others must be made widely known.
There are many creative materials. The AFL-CIOs John McCain Revealed program is up and running for labor councils and union locals. Brave New Films The Real McCain videos are available on YouTube, the McBush Campaign of Americans United for Change, the Bush Legacy Project which will be touring the country, the Alliance of Retired Americans truth squad to expose McCains support for privatizing social security
The Peoples Weekly World – Nuestro Mundo has been doing an excellent job exposing John McCain. There is a proposal for a pamphlet to be issued by the paper on McCain and the need for the landslide vote to defeat him.
HOUSE AND SENATE TARGETS
There must be both a change in control of the White House and a bigger shift in Congress to begin to chart a new policy course.
Many progressives and others are discouraged that despite the 2006 election in which voters changed congress to end the war, 4,000 US soldiers and many times more Iraqi soldiers and civilians have been killed and the war and occupation continue. Yes, the Democratic leadership could have returned the same bill the President vetoed again and again, and perhaps that should have been done.
But there is no escaping the reality that it would take a hundred percent of the Democratic caucus plus some Republican votes to override a presidential veto. But, a grouping of conservative Democrats has been voting with Republicans around the war and security issues
Of 232 Democrats in the House, 48 belong to the conservative Blue Dog Caucus and 60 are in the centrist New Democrat Coalition. In contrast, 73 are members of the Progressive Caucus, 43 are in the Black Caucus and 20 are in the Hispanic caucus. (Overlapping memberships have to be taken into account.)
In addition to increasing the number of Democrats in general there is a necessity to increase the number of pro-labor and peace Representatives in Congress.
The ultra-right is forging ahead with a $2 million swift boat style smear campaign funded by Defense of Democracy. Attack ads against 15 Democrats who won in traditionally Republican districts in 2006 claim they pose a security danger to the country for voting against domestic spying.
The Defense of Democracy Board includes neo-cons Newt Gingrich, Bill Kristol and Richard Perle and also Senator Joe Lieberman, who is meeting stiff opposition in Connecticut.
The answer to this type of strong arm tactic is not to give in. The voice of peace and labor constituents must be heard in these districts both to re-elect, but also to establish a progressive mandate that reflects the shift in thinking taking place throughout the country.
Dennis Kucinich, won a vicious primary challenge with strong labor support. His main opponent spent $500,000 largely from AIPAC supporters. This victory shows challenges from the right wing can be overcome with a strong connection to the grass roots and a principled fight.
28 Republican incumbents in the House and 6 in the Senate are not running for re-election. The chance of these seats flipping to Democrat increases if the Presidential candidate wins with long coat tails..In the Senate, there is a chance to gain a 60-seat Democratic majority which could override filibusters
Democrat Bill Foster set off a political earthquake when he won the seat vacated by former Republican Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert showing that red districts can flip to blue. Foster was not the most progressive Democrat in the race, but the day he was sworn in his vote defeated a Republican procedural measure [207-206] and the independent ethics panel passed.
Donna Edwards stunned the political world with her 25 point primary victory over conservative Democratic incumbent Al Wynn in Prince Georges County, Maryland, which is encouraging to other pro-labor, peace and progressive candidates.. She is one of ten peace candidates for Congress running on A Responsible Plan to Withdraw from Iraq. which is a detailed, comprehensive plan to end the Iraq War and bring our troops home. Darcy Burner, candidate in Washingtons 8th CD initiated the report because voters kept asking how the war will end. All Congressional candidates are welcomed to sign on.
CORE FORCES AND BUILDING THE TURNOUT
The shifts we noted at our last National Committee meeting continue to materialize, with Latinos, youth and women increasing their Democratic vote, African American voters increasing their turnout in the South, and the religious right continuing to lose ground among rural voters.
We have a special responsibility to build the strength of labor, African American, Latino, women and youth voters the core forces within the broad peoples alliance to defeat the right wing. Their leadership will be critical to win the election and then post-election to shape the demands for new policy and build the mass pressure to enact them.
The AFL-CIO and Change to Win unions are collaborating on the largest voter mobilization in history. An army of shop stewards is being trained for rapid response mobilization in the workplace and neighborhoods. Postcard campaigns with the goal of one million signers each have been launched in support of the Employee Free Choice Act and for universal healthcare. Everyone can be involved and reach out.
The community affiliate Working America is active in 14 states with 2 million members. Ohio and Pennsylvania are among the battlegrounds.
The primaries have been challenging because of the different union endorsements and the need to keep unity for November while at the same time building support for Obama. Change to Win has activated their member-to-member operation for Obama. Twelve AFL-CIO unions have endorsed Clinton with different amounts of activation, six have endorsed Obama and the rest are waiting until the nominee is decided.
A remarkable 30% to 40% of voters who turned out so far in the Democratic primaries are union members. The media plays a negative role in promoting the idea that wage workers are Clinton voters and professionals are Obama voters. A deeper look is required. For example, in Rhode Island Change to Win union members voted 56% for Obama, but the union vote reported was 59% Clinton and 40% Obama. Clearly wage workers were among those voting for Obama, as in other states.
Union leaders are concerned that some members are drifting to McCain. A special effort has been launched to show McCain is not on the side of workers. Our labor departments electronic newsletter Labor Up Front discusses the tough questions and gives a lead for unity on NAFTA, health care, racism and the war.
Working in the elections through a union, whether or not you are a member, is the most meaningful participation. It builds up the labor component which is key to progress. Around the country community volunteers have been welcomed at phone banks and door knocks It is also a great way to meet other union members and build relations and possibly new readers of the paper or new club members.
The Obama campaign has moved the African American community in a special way, expressed in the turnout and vote. The African American vote has been the most consistent progressive voting bloc over decades, 90% Democratic. We have noted if African Americans vote the proportion of their population in South Carolina, Mississippi and Georgia those states will flip from red to blue. That process is underway, starting with the large primary turnout. Massive voter registration drives are taking place . Participating in community mobilizations will deepen our ties and contribution on an ongoing basis.
The media and the right-wing have been working overtime to diminish the African American vote. Constant distortions by FOX News and others combined with the Clintons slash-and-burn negative campaign has been damaging for future unity and must be challenged.
However, the medias attempt to split the African American and Latino people is backfiring. Hype that Latinos will not vote for an African American is clearly untrue. Special outreaches are taking place locally and nationally to further cement that unity. Our election work should be carried out in such a way that fosters this unity.
Attempts by anti-immigrant groups to split the African American and Latino people are being rejected in many instances at the local level. If such fissures are left untouched it will endanger the potential of a landslide vote and movement that can chart a new course. Obamas speech on race made a great contribution in this regard and can be drawn upon..
There has been a big increase in Latino voters in the primaries, with the largest number of young voters. Latinos represented 10 percent of the voters (up from 6.7 percent in the 2004 general election). They voted 79% Democratic (up from 60-63 percent in the 2004 general election).. The vote was in majority for Clinton, but it is fluid as Obama becomes better known. Outreach to all Latinos on all of the issues is crucial for unity in November.
Coordinated by South West Voter Project 30,000 Latino voters are expected to register in schools and churches in 13 cities by July, with another 60,000 before November, involving hundreds of youth in 15 states coordinating with 800 local organizations. The goal is 12 million registered – up from 9.5 in 2006 and 10 million turnout.
In South Florida three Republican Cuban American Congressmen face serious Democratic challenges in a volatile election. This could reconfigure the Latino vote and flip the whole state from red to blue. Democratic Congresspersons in the adjacent districts failed to endorse the challengers, but grass roots pressure brought national Democratic Party commitments to these races.
Cecilia Munoz, president of National Council of La Raza warned at the Take Back American Conference that there is a danger the Latino voter turnout will not reach its full potential, if Democrats do not differentiate themselves from the immigrant hate legislation associated with Republicans. The discharge petition to force the anti-immigrant Save Act HR 4088 to the floor is especially dangerous. The fight to get the 49 Democratic co-sponsors, who joined with almost all the Republicans, to withdraw their support is part of the fight for a landslide vote in November.
Women voters have been turning out in large numbers for the Democratic primaries. Clinton has the overall advantage, reflecting the possibility of the first woman president, and the endorsement of NOW. But women are voting for both Clinton and Obama. African American women are voting overwhelmingly for Obama. Single women have voted overwhelmingly for Obama in Alabama, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Missouri and Utah, while Clinton carried single women in .the remaining ten super Tuesday states.
Womens Voices Womens Vote is concentrating on unmarried women because they vote more progressive but have not turned out. In 2006 twenty million single women did not vote. Unmarried women were 26% of all voters in the Tuesday super primaries.
Planned Parenthood has aimed its fire at John McCain, airing radio ads in February after he called for Roe v. Wade to be overturned a good rallying cry for unity after the primaries.
When young people began flocking to vote in the Democratic primaries it galvanized the overall turnout. Young people want to impact these elections, and they want change. They want jobs, affordable education and an end to the war in Iraq. They are concerned about health care and the environment. (Rock The Vote 2/08) The number of under 30 voters in the democratic primaries tripled (3 million) from 4 years ago. My space and face book sign-ups on the internet show youth support for Obama who has 1 million friends compared to Clintons 330,000 and McCains 140,000. (NYT 3/27/08)
The YCL has an impressive program for the 2008 elections including a week long training in St. Louis, voter pledge cards to use with voter registration, and participation in youth vote coalitions. There is a big opportunity to connect with young people in this election. The YCL is mobilizing their clubs. Party clubs and districts can outreach to young people and work closely with the YCL to build existing clubs and new clubs.
A word about two other sectors – environmental voters and peace voters.
Environmental voters could have a big impact. The global climate change affecting our planet will not wait. Young voters, and voters in general want action. The Take Back America conference featured the Apollo Project and others including Van Jones who are organizing support for a massive infrastructure program to green the buildings in our country while creating good jobs with union rights and affirmative action in hiring as well as in selection of communities to be rebuilt. The Bush administration has taken an anti-science, arrogant and dangerous course. John McCain has a zero rating from the League of Conservation voters for missing every environmental vote of consequence in the Senate. Many environmental organizations will be involved in voter registration. We should participate.
A number of initiatives are keeping the demand to end the war and occupation vocal and visible as part of bringing the peace majority to the polls.
There are many ways to participate.
United for Peace and Justice with others developed a special taskforce . They plan a Peace Voter Guide, city council resolutions to end the war, and work with members of Congress on tactics for the budget resolution.
Progressive Democrats of America launched a Healthcare Not Warfare campaign linking withdrawal from Iraq with support for HR 676 Medicare for All.
Progressives for Obama just formed. Tom Hayden, Bill Fletcher, Jr.,Barbara Ehrenreich, and Danny Glover are calling on those in the peace movement who have been sitting out the election to join the grass roots upsurge around Obama and build the demand to end the war. This call to action should be useful locally.
The fifth year of war in Iraq and the economic crisis has given rise to a new national coalition of Peace and economic rights groups and unions. American United for Change along with MoveOn, SEIU, Vote Vets, USAction and others have initiated a major effort in swing districts on the Iraq Recession. Their poll shows that 69 percent of swing voters want to end the war and reinvest in health care and new clean energy jobs.
CLUB AND PARTY BUILDING
The reports from around the country on activities in the elections are exciting. We have to draw conclusions from our experiences so we can do our very best in the next seven months. There are many ways to participate directly in the campaign movement; through the mobilizations of labor and peoples organizations; in our own concentration neighborhoods. These all overlap and are interrelated.
Like the slogan building to win, building to last, we should systematically work in a way that both strengthens Party clubs at the grassroots and simultaneously deepens our coalition relations with labor and allies.
This is a unique time when people are stepping forward, looking for answers and re-thinking old assumptions. This is a time to renew and refresh our concentration policy.
The upsurge of activism in this election, coming out of the conditions people face, presents new opportunities for building grass roots Communist Party clubs. The new stage of struggle demands a larger multi-racial working class base and constituency for our Party.
I can hardly think of a person or family we know who is not facing some crisis about their healthcare or their job closing or maybe losing their home. They all come to the Communist Party for advise, organizing tactics and skills and we must respond directly and also by mobilizing for the elections.
I would like to suggest that one component of our election work be choosing a multi-racial working class neighborhood or election district where we want to build the Party on an ongoing basis. A voter registration and education campaign with the goal of a landslide vote in that election district could be an excellent project, using the Peoples Weekly World and other literature.
Choosing one neighborhood and taking a collective mobilization approach could make it do-able where we are small. With a little follow-up a new voter or two may also become a new neighborhood activist and help organize the community to come out to vote. This could be the basis for a new or enlarged Party club.
In Missouri comrades took a goal for decline to sign pledges within the coalition working to defeat the anti-affirmative action ballot initiative. They plan to do the work in a way that builds a permanent base in one neighborhood.
There are other experiences of taking responsibility within a coalition for voter registration and turnout in a certain election district and then continuing to develop relations on a regular basis with the Peoples Weekly World and activity.
There are experiences of making new friends at house parties or vigils and going together to community activities or traveling together to campaign mobilizations.
One workplace club with a good Peoples Weekly World readership found that people who had never come to meetings showed up for the elections powerpoint, got involved in the primary and then traveled to a nearby state to help out.
An education component to our work will help sustain and advance new activists. We will have materials to work with.
The Peoples Weekly World is our number one. Goals for new readers should be part of our election plans. The internet department is providing YouTube presentations and other resources.
Work is beginning on a short pamphlet to be issued in large quantity by the Peoples Weekly World – Nuestro Mundo on McCain and the landslide. Fliers made from the story of the week will be available on the papers website.
Our 2008 Communist Party election program will be out in May in a short pamphlet format. It will talk about the landslide and expose McCain and the corporate ultra-right. It will present a bold emergency program to repair, restore and rebuild our country out of the devastation of the last 30 years including strong measures to relieve the victims of the crisis. It will introduce the Communist Party and our vision for socialism.
We are meeting numbers of people who are excited to come to work with us on the election. They want to know about the Communist Party. This program will be an important tool designed to have broad distribution among our coalition partners as well as at the grass roots.
A statement on the 2008 election policy of the Communist Party USA, drafted by Jarvis Tyner, appears on our website,
Seven months to the November 4 general election is a short time. Three weeks to the April 22 Pennsylvania primary is even shorter. Pennsylvania has emerged as very important, perhaps the decisive primary battle. There are many opportunities to campaign in person and with phone calls.
Primaries to follow include Indiana on May 7 and Oregon on May 20.
During the months of June, July and August many states have their state and congressional primaries.
The Democratic National Convention is August 25-28 in Denver. The Republican Convention is September 1-4 in Minneapolis St. Paul.
At the next National Committee meeting we can better project outward to November.
We do not know all the twists and turns that the campaign will take. The great democratic spirit spreading through the country will hopefully prevail in a big way for a transformative election. If we stay on top of new developments we will be able to play our unity role. .
Just before he was assassinated, speaking from the depths of the civil rights movement, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King gave a sermon at the National Cathedral. He called for a radical revolution of values in our country from a thing oriented society to a person oriented society so that the triple evils of racism, militarism and exploitation could be toppled. Today, that revolution of values King dreamed of is unfolding.
The movement for a landslide victory is the beginning. The more decisive the victory, the greater the possibilities for that movement to keep going and growing to win big new gains in a new stage of struggle.